Serou: A microcosm of mosaic Manipur

Shan Basnet
Serou village which is 65 kilometers away from the state capital city Imphal is an epitomic microcosm of mosaic Manipur.It is a village almost engulfed by the Chakpi river and the Imphal river. There lies the confluence of the clear water of the Chakpi with the Imphal river.It is the southern most part of Kakching district .The village was once a remote isolated island which had to depend on single boat for ferrying people in and out of it throughout the year.
Serou is a land of cultural and linguistic diversity. The inhabitants of Serou village comprises of Nepalis, Meiteis and Bengalis. The total geographicalarea of Serou is 427.97 hectres. It has a total population of 4216 people according to 2011 census. There are about 780 houses.
The inhabitants of Serou depend on agriculture. They rely on a dam which is fenced with wood. Every year, flood of the Chakpi river takes awaysome parts of it creating a panic in the hearts of Serouians. The village is famous in the state for maize, spinach, mustard leaf (hangam) and peas (hawai tharak) production.However, the production of peas has considerably been decreased in the recent years.
Besides agriculture, the Chakpi river is another source of livelihood of Serouians. Chakpi stones and sand are things which have high demand in construction market. Therefore, so many men and women from within the village and from southern Manipur flock to erect shelter on the shore of the Chakpi river in order topile up stones and sieve sand in winter and spring seasons when the water level recedes.
Serou is proud to have the longest bridge in Manipur. It’s length is 253.35 metres and it is 12 metres wide including the footpath. The construction wasstarted in February 2008. After completion, the bridge was formally inaugurated by the chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh on 24th October 2011. The cost of the bridge was 19 crores. With the construction of the bridge over the Chakpi river, the village is connected with the rest of the world throughout the year. Serou serves as a transit point of other neighbouring hilly villages of Chandel district. Developmental works penetrated into the village only when this structure was constructed.
Just across the bridge, there lies Serou bazar on the bank of the Chakpi river. People around the neighbouring hilly villages such as Singtam, Toupokpi, Chakpi Molbem, Thingkangphai come to buy basic needs from the Serou market. They also carry charcoal, banana, firewood, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and some fowls to sell in the market. One can see the amalgamation of culturally diverse people speaking various languages like Zou, Anal, Kuki, Manipuri, Nepali, Bengali…among one another and rushing fromone shop to the other. At one point of time, Nepali was the lingua franca of Serou but it has gradually been replaced by Manipuri and English. Yet, everyone understands andrespects one another’s language.
Nonetheless, Serou is renown for peaceful existence. Despite the fact that there are multi-cultural people living together, the village has been able to maintain social
harmony. In other words, Serou has remained a mediating force for creating a balanced relationship in various ethnic conflicts including the Naga-Kuki turbulence of thenineties in the region.
The Serouians are used to participating in one another’s festivals like Yaosang, Christmas, New Year, Durga Puja with equal enthusiasm. The most enthrallingscene can be seen on the last day of Durga Puja. The idols of gods and goddesses from various temples are brought at the Chakpi river where the bridge is built. People from Serou and neighbouring hilly villages throng there to witness the celebration before the idols are submerged into the Chakpi stream. Devotees even from Sugnu,Wangpokpi, Tangjeen, Wangoo, Chairen, Khorsanthabi, Imphal joined the congregation to take a glimpse of the ecstatic moment. The occasion is marked by Thabal Chongba
a popular Manipuri folk dance where the participants hold hands of opposite gender in a long circle. The sound of fire crackers, the music of the band party and the hymnsrecited bring everything in a stand still. At this moment, Naobi, Bolle, Ibem, Shanti, Boinu and Animesh swing their hands and legs in the air in perfect rhythm forgetting the feelingsof enmity and finally cleansing the impurities of their relation in the pure water of the Chakpi river.
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